Mateo Kingman’s ‘Astro’ – review

Soft electro chords, stellar echoes, playfulness and cosmic beats form the spine of Mateo Kingman’s second album, Astro.

The record opens with “Umbral” (‘beginning’ or ‘threshold’, in English) and it feels as though this is more of a natural dawn, a sunrise, rather than simply the first track of an album.

“Lucero” (‘star’ in English) calls to mind the auroras of the northern and southern hemispheres and floats and reflects along, as opposed to mundanely following a set, three-minute form. He focuses on drifting music, considering spirituality and greater themes, of how music and the wider universe understand and inform each other.

Three singles have been released from the album, “Tejidos” (‘textures’, in English), “Religar” (‘re-bind’ or ‘re-tie’) and “Último Aliento” (‘last breath’). In the video for “Tejidos”, we get a sense of the serpentine, other-worldly, mesmerising cosmic flow that emanates from much of the album.

The protection of and connection with the environment is critical for Kingman, who promotes the celebration of indigenous peoples in his home country, Ecuador.

In his social media and now also in this new release he drives links to the rich variety of Ecuadorian nature, from the swells of the Pacific, through the 6,000m peaks of the Andes, to the mystery and interconnectedness of the Amazon.

But it is not all celestial contemplation.

There is a pleasing drop three minutes deep in “Astro”, there is the urban riff and hip-hop of “IO”, and the chilled electro of “Religar”.

It is a playful, beautiful album that seems to strive for more than the banalities of regular ‘cosmic intrigue’ records.

A good summary comes from Kingman himself, whose description of “Tejidos” could be expanded to describe the whole album. He says it is “a dialogue between the traveller and the snakes/vehicles of the universe”.

Jardin’s ‘Maqui de Hierro’ – review

The re-released record from Peruvian duo Jardín is better described as a scientific experiment in musical form.

The themes of hypnosis, confusion and sonic discovery run through this album like an electrical current. Stressful, at times perplexing; it is a fascinating aural test.

The issues of nature are present – the complexity of the natural world? The horror reality of nature versus the fairytale elements? The title Maqui de Hierro literally means ‘hands of iron’ [maqui is the Quechua word for ‘hands’]. But larger topics are present, too, and it feels at times as though you move with the artists away from Earth, exploring deeper realms.

The song titles increase the sense of mystery surrounding this percussion-heavy and split-bit repetition, with swirling, darkened names such as “Serpientes de Humo” and “Perfume de Ceniza”.

Maqui de Hierro is not a regular dinner party soundtrack, serving better those looking to re-discover experimental sounds from Peru. The album was originally released on cassette and it is pleasing to see music from nearly 15 years ago repurposed for a new audience.

This article first appeared in Sounds and Colours

La Confianza Ciega – a review

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La Confianza Ciega is a kaleidoscopic record.

That was the overpowering feeling that I had listening to the new offering from Venezuelan artist Algodón Egipcio. It is an ever-moving artwork that is complex in its rhythms, surprising in its direction and adventurous in its outcome.

At times, it transports you to a relaxing place of late-summer sunshine; at others, you feel as though you are caught up in a stomping riot of colour. His songs consist of several distinct moving parts, with some sections that are structured and others that are more chaotic. You might have a choral refrain, echoes of electro, a shot of Latin hip hop, deeply layered instrumental sections, verse and chorus overlapping to the hints of African and Caribbean beats.

It is synthetic, it is psychedelic and it is a true musical patchwork. This sensory overload can jar but there is respite to be found, especially with the cooling spray of “El Aliento” and “La Estrella Irregular”. It is a most surreal mix of wandering reverberations from an experimental and creative young artist.

The album has a heightened sense of the interconnected and fluid notes of nature, seen in the song names alone: “El Calor Específico”, “El Ciclo del Agua” and “Las Dunas Cantoras”. Into this group we can also place “Las Islas Feroe’, which stands out as the only song named after a specific setting: the windswept and mountainous North Atlantic archipelago.

However, on the whole, La Confianza Ciega is not rooted in one particular place, although Algodón Egipcio himself has hinted at an evocation of a ‘lost’ Caracas in some of the lyrics. The album drifts between moods and feelings rather than clearly delineated locations and genres. It is a refreshing record in its variety of musical flavours and overall sense of brightness: a bouncing parade of experimentation and a twinkling rainbow of sound.

This review also appeared on the Sounds and Colours website.

Overflow – a review

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It starts in a madcap whirl of old-school R&B and London gospel, intertwined with spiralling Latin brass and percussion.

And by the time it comes to an end, nine songs later, the new album from Venezuelan artist Edwin Sanz leaves you gasping at its musical breadth, its daring enterprise, its global depth.

Overflow is an apt name when you bear in mind the three major threads that dominate the record: the range of genres; the complexity of the experimental covers and new numbers; and the galloping Latin heartbeat.

This is tight, roaring fare. Salsa, cumbia and merengue mixed with British church classics. Trumpet solos, major orchestral pieces and Santana-esque wail-blasts of electric guitar.

The third number is a rework of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ regularly-covered “I Put A Spell On You”. It is a belting Latin alarm-call kicked off with domineering and haunting female vocals. The influence of Stevie Wonder comes through strongly in “Something About You”. The cowbells are still trilling away, but this number shows Sanz’s skill when it comes to soul and slow funk.

With “Eres Tú”, we get back to the Latin heritage. It is a typical salsa serenade with a group refrain and a lead male singer, who is classically and deferentially romantic. Songs such as “Cómo Olvidar” are more traditional yet at other junctures on the album he offers gear-shift alterations to the Latin norm: just under two minutes into “Ella” there is a sudden acceleration from a slow-dance romance to a fire of slick salsa.

Overflow is a bilingual album chock-full of international influences and appearances from world artists. The first lines of the opening song are “From New York to Caracas, from LA to the UK”. Sanz has noted how his musical career has been shaped by his time studying and playing in the US and Europe. But though his music has adapted and developed across time and countries he shows his commitment to the land of his birth throughout the album, notably with the final track “Yo Vengo de Venezuela”, a colourful celebration of that country’s rich musical history.

This review also appeared on the Sounds and Colours website.